When it comes to running a business, no book has influenced me more than Traction by Gino Wickman. In this book, Gino lays out the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). Just like your computer has an operating system, your business needs to have an operating system. This book lays out a DOABLE operating system. (In my opinion, this book is like the MacOS whereas the stuff I learned in business school was more like a PC.)
The model in this book has helped my businesses tremendously. It also gels with how I run my personal life with quarterly sabbaticals and a weekly planning meeting.
Of the clients I’ve worked with over the years, my favorite clients are the ones who use Traction. Why? Because they have a system to set goals and then execute to achieve them.
Without an operating system, so many companies wander aimlessly. We see this in marketing where companies have a hodgepodge of advertising and digital marketing initiatives without an overall plan. We definitely see this in sales teams that tell their team to “go make some calls” without focusing them on a list of Ideal Clients or educating them on how to drive a valuable business conversation.
Gino says, “Every great system is made up of a core group of basic components. The same applies to business.”
Here are some of my favorite takeaways from this book.
Visionary vs. Integrator vs. Implementer
For years I struggled running my business. I loved the planning and strategy part. Creativity and communication came easily. But when it came to actually getting things done, I was terribile. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do things on a day-to-day business (after all, I have an MBA!) it’s just that it sapped all of my energy—especially the valuable creative energy.
On top of that, I was a do-it-myself kind of guy. I go to Home Depot on the weekends. I fix things around the house when they break. I didn’t need outside opinions. In my thinking, bringing in outside help would only slow me down.
Boy was I wrong. Gino taught me that every business needs two kinds of leaders supported by a third kind of person. The two leader types are visionaries and integrators.
Visionaries dream. They strategize. They have an eye for the future. They sell the vision.
Integrators do. They get things done. They execute consistently. They build and oversee processes. They make the business run.
Finally, it all made sense. I am a visionary. I needed an integrator. Over time, I brought partners into my businesses that are great integrators. Not only are the businesses running better, they more profitable. Most importantly, I get to focus all of my energy on what I love doing: being a growth architect. It freed up the headspace for me to become an author. I’m happier, healthier, and more enthusiastic than ever. Thank you, Gino!
The third type of person is an implementer. This is someone from outside your company that helps you weave new concepts into the fabric of your business. They have permission to challenge you. They can see the forest through the trees. They bring perspective from other businesses. They see things you don’t.
I’ve come to realize that implementers are very valuable. They accelerate your results. Even more, they increase the probability that your initiative will succeed because somehow as a business owner, I feel more accountable to get things done for an outside person than I sometimes do for my internal team.
Today, I value outside opinions for our company. Sure, they require a budget. However, the acceleration of results makes it worth it. Plus, I get access to levels of talent I probably couldn’t hire (or afford to hire) as a full-time employee.
One Page Plans
In business school, I learned how to create long business plans with pretty pictures. Banks and investors love to see these. They make you feel good when you print them out and put them in a binder.
Twelve years ago I became involved in a startup company. When I handed the 25-page plan to our vCFO, he smiled and said, “Can you boil that down to five pages?” Two days later, I came back with the five-page plan and he smiled and asked me to distill it to two pages. Finally, he had me shorten it even more to what he called, “The one-page thriller.”
Gino gets this. When you read Traction you’ll learn about the Vision Traction Organizer. On the front of the page, you set your big-picture goals. On the back, you have your annual plan. Simple and powerful. It gives a level of focus and clarity to the team.
Daily business can be distracting. As marketing or sales professionals, we certainly have lots of shiny objects to distract us. I have my VTO printed out an on my desk in front of me at all times to reorient me to what’s important.
I’m a huge proponent for focusing on Ideal Clients. Mark Hunter describes how salespeople can do this in his book, High-Profit Prospecting. Gino takes this down to a very practical level, calling it “The List.” This is the description of the type of company you serve. While I firmly believe that the concept of understanding your Ideal Client merits a deep dive and some ongoing research, I love the simplicity of this because it keeps the business plan focuses on serving ideal clients.
A Clear Engagement Process
In the marketing section of the “Vision Traction Organizer”, Gino has you distill down what he calls your “Proven Process” for how customers can engage with you. This is to the stage of the Building a StoryBrand framework, where you call the buyer to action, giving them clear steps to engage. This helps companies clarify the process of engagement, giving a high-level guide for marketing calls-to-action and sales processes.
Gino says, “Nothing can be fine-tuned until it is consistent.” If you want to improve your business, you have to have a starting line. In Traction, you learn to document the core processes in your business. From there, you can measure and improve.
While most businesses have processes in their finance, HR, and distribution departments, my experience is that sales and marketing are the wild west. Staffed by relational and creative people, we are usually the last to document processes. That’s why we should be the first.
In Revenue Growth Engine, I’m a huge proponent of documenting your core marketing and sales processes. This gives you consistency. It also allows you to have a baseline from which to improve.
I used to hate meetings. What I’ve discovered is that I actually hate unproductive meetings.
In Traction, Gino lays out a cadence of meetings beginning with annual planning, quarterly strategies, and weekly “Level 10” meetings. He also advocates for the same page meeting between the visionary and the integrator.
These meetings are focused. They have a specific framework. As a result, these meetings have become highly productive for our leadership teams. Not only do we get a lot done, because of the efficiency of the meetings, we’re able to have fewer meetings, freeing up more time to get things done. Best of all, we’re all on the same page.
This mindset has affected the way I lead my businesses. It also has changed the way I lead my non-profits. In some ways, it has changed the way I lead my family.
I could go on and on about this book. We haven’t talked about meaningful scorecards (essential to marketing and sales), the people component, and the idea of issue resolution. So, guess what? You need to go read this book. Also, go to the EOS website where you’ll discover all kinds of resources. I promise that you’ll thank me!
Originally Published on Revenue Growth Engine.